An Uncompromising Fighter Against Communal Forces

Jyoti Basu

COMRADE Harkishan Singh Surjeet was two years younger than I am. For the past one-and-a-half to two years, he had been very ill. His voice had become faint. The condition of my health too is not very good, and I am almost bed-ridden. Now-a-days, I am not able to attend Party meetings held in Delhi. Still, when I had gone to Delhi on the last occasion, I had gone to his residence to meet him. Since then I would learn about his illness from time-to-time. Nevertheless, it is very painful for me to realise the fact that Comrade Surjeet has left us forever. Now, on his loss, I do feel somewhat alone and lonely.

We have worked as comrades-in-arms in the Party. We were witness to so many events. Those memories come back to me now more than ever. However, I am now-a-days not able to recall very many past events. After all, I am 95. I have worked as wholetimer of the Party for the past 68 years. I have heard that Comrade Surjeet took part in the freedom struggle at very young age when he was a student. He had an important role to play in the building up of the Communist movement in the Punjab. He had been the secretary of the Punjab state committee of the Party. I was elected to the Central Committee in 1954, at the Third Party Congress held at Madurai. Surjeet was made a member of the Polit Bureau there. I had of course known him from much earlier.

I particularly recall the Amritsar Party Congress. A lakh of people attended the open rally. There was a big procession of the Party Congress delegates before the rally. I along with Comrade EMS and Comrade Surjeet were in an open jeep. I remember when the procession was moving around Amritsar, women and children were showering flower petals on us from houses on both sides of the route we took. I came to realise the depth of the mass base of the Party in the Punjab.

After the Communist Party split on ideological grounds, Surjeet was one of the 32 members of the national council who came out of it. When the CPI(M) was formed, Comrade Surjeet and I were elected to the Polit Bureau. He played an important role at that time in organising the CPI(M), and providing the necessary leadership in different states. He also played a leading role in the task of the building up of the mass organisations of workers, peasants, student-youth etc, always encouraging them.

As the all-India leader of the Party, Comrade Surjeet played a noteworthy role in national politics. He played an uncompromising role in keeping away from office the communal BJP in the new political situation of the country. He had a notable role to play also during the time in 1989 when the non-Congress V P Singh-led central government was set up. As the Party general secretary later on, he played a crucial role in isolating the communal forces and uniting the Left and democratic forces during the time when the United Front government of 1996 under Deve Gowda and later the UPA government of 2004 were set up.

We took his advice on the question of running the Left Front government in West Bengal. He would repeatedly stress that it was especially important to maintain the unity of the Left Front constituents. I have always agreed with him on this issue. When I asked to be relieved of the post of chief minister on health grounds, Comrade Surjeet became very worried. He came to my residence and had a discussion. It was decided at the discussion that we would first set up the post of a deputy chief minister who would later on become the chief minister, and that I would not run for the elections. That formula has been a success. The Party and the people of West Bengal have accepted Buddhadeb Bhattacharjee with delight. We are proud that a Left Front government is in office here for 31 years with the support and trust of the people.

In the demise of comrade Harkishan Singh Surjeet, we have lost a pioneer leader of the CPI (M). The left and democratic movement of the country has suffered a great loss. Comrade Surjeet was not just our leader; he maintained contact with various organisations and mass organisations of the country. He had good relations with the Communist parties of different countries around the world. He had especially won the hearts of the mass of the people. I had travelled with him here and abroad and had seen how the people loved him. I especially recall how I with my family members had enjoyed the hospitality of the village home of comrade Surjeet.

Comrade Surjeet has passed away. In expressing my respectful regards in his memory, I would say that we would certainly reach the goal for the achievement of which he toiled throughout his life. The task is a hard, it would take time, the struggles, and movements would undergo a process of ebbs and flows, but we do belives that we shall reach our goal. All of us follow what we have learnt from his life: to work with patience and honesty. He was two years my junior and yet he went away. I can only say this: to a Communist, the interest of the people is much greater than personal interest. It is easy to say this but very difficult to follow. I have said this before, and I say this again, that I would like to work for the interest of the people until the last day of my life.

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